Can we take a cold hard look at where we are, those of us who consider ourselves to be part of the wider environmental movement. We have not succeeded in moving the people or our governments to take the action needed. It’s not that we didn’t have any successes, it’s that we weren’t successful enough . We have not communicated the severity of the situation we now face, the latest IPCC report seems to have come and gone in a matter of days. We have accepted managed decline and compromise, as if physics and extinction events are up for negotiations. Drop a glass? It falls to the floor. Add CO2 to the atmosphere? It heats up. Disrupt planetary systems? Species disappear.
Right now, it appears that the small wins we have achieved are under threat. In the UK a small group of Conservative MPs are pushing back against the woefully insufficient net zero by 2050 target, using the war in Ukraine and the cost of living crisis – created by our very dependence on fossil fuels. Fueled by Brexit success and black oil money, it means that clean, cheap renewable energy is framed as an attack on our culture and traditions.
The impact of this on the wider environmental movement has been traumatic, under constant attack and ridicule we fear failure, we fear losing what small steps we have gained and because it’s beyond dreadful we fear facing the truth; life is going to get a lot, lot harder and most people are going to be worse off, even if by some miracle we stay below 1.5C. The basements and train stations of Ukraine give us a foretaste of what ‘conflict over diminishing natural resources’ will look like on our streets, in our towns and cities, a future outlined by the Ministry of Defence in 2020. This is what we face, we know this, the military are telling us, the scientists are telling us, even McKinsey are telling us.
Much, if not all of the past environmental messaging has been, that going green will save you money, make you healthier, happier and oh look we save the hedgehog, the polar bear, the double winged lesser spotted dipper. The irony is that we bought into the materialist messaging lock stock and barrel, we will save you money, we endlessly told people. Many yearn for meaning, community and non materialist glory – people wanted to be part of something that was great, even if it risks making them poorer.
Now here we are, 2022, and as a movement, almost paralysed with fear. The environmental NGO’s, the Charities those organisations with mass membership whose aim is to protect our diminishing natural world are asking us to write to our MP, go on a march, sign a petition, give your £3/month. Really – there is a real world, you drop the glass and it hits the floor, if we drill more oil we will destroy our civilisation and on the way countless lives, billions of lives. More oil is an act of war against small island states, an obscene injustice against the poor of the global south and an utter betrayal of our young people. Covid, Ukraine this is just the beginning.
As Greta said – changing is coming, one way or another and our choice, those of us who know, is whether we act to ensure that those who caused this, those who are responsible, are made to pay, and that’s not the care worker driving her Honda Jazz at 6am in the morning. She didn’t cause this. The fossil fuel companies, the wealthy, it’s time for them to pay and they aren’t happy, but our government has a contract to protect the people of this country we need to force them to abide by it.
We might fail, but if we sit on our hands out of fear, fear of the backlash, fear of the culture war we have no way of winning. But let’s not insult the people of this country, if we have to be a bit poorer to protect our children then so be it. If we need to move off oil to stop dictatorial regimes having enough oil cash to embark on killing sprees in other people’s countries – so be it.
We have just risen to the challenge of a national crisis, what did the ordinary people of this country do during lockdowns, we checked on our neighbours, we looked after each other, we did what was required. It’s not doing our bit that we object to, it’s being treated like idiots by those in power. You follow the rules – we get to party. You pay for our mistakes – we fill our mates’ bank accounts. You change your lives and go green – we keep expanding fossil fuel production and trouser the profits.
Its 2022, the latest IPCC report, another bleak report, has just laid out the likely fate for humanity -it notes the window for action is rapidly closing. If we don’t step up now our children will never forgive us, yes there are risks in acting, but the greater risk is business as usual. The risk, that the fear of the culture war causes us to self-censor, to lower our voices, to capitulate when we’re required to act. By continuing to open new oil fields, by failing to mobilise and throwing everything at the real zero-carbon agenda our government is harming us and we must resist, not stand down, cross our fingers and wait for the right time.
There aren’t endless five minutes to midnight, a year ago Sir David King said 3 to 4 years to determine the fate of humanity, my maths make it 2 to 3 years now. That’s the time frame, can the environmental movement do what is needed? The end game has arrived.
Just Stop Oil